Disability Rights Legal Center (DRLC) is a 501C-3 non-profit, public interest advocacy organization that champions the civil rights of people with disabilities as well as those affected by cancer and other serious illness. DRLC accomplishes this mission by bringing to court individual and class action cases that challenge discriminatory practices by government, business and educational institutions. It simultaneously educates disability, business, government, education and legal communities on how to avoid discrimination. DRLC promotes, maintains and cultivates new and existing working relationships with disability commissions, professionals and advocates, grassroots organizations, post-secondary schools, public interest law offices and private law firms to facilitate its work. The latter two assist in ongoing litigation of systemic issues.
Disability Litigation, the original service of Disability Rights Legal Center, provides free legal assistance to people with disabilities experiencing discrimination in violation of their civil rights. It brings high impact, high visibility court cases that benefit large groups of people, raise public awareness and ensure people with disabilities are able to participate fully in society throughout their life span. Disability Litigation frequently addresses the rights of marginalized people in challenging settings, including custodial settings like prisons and jails. It also works to remove barriers to full participation by people with disabilities in schools, extended care facilities, hospitals and public spaces. In particular, Disability Litigation attacks attitudinal and programmatic barriers that maintain discriminatory structures and prevent equal access.
All intake for Disability Litigation is completed through the Community Advocacy Program (CAP). CAP services to evaluate all incoming calls for appropriate services and relays cases beyond its scope to DRLC. It connects callers with community based resources and referrals. CAP conducts investigations for DRLC and engages in community trainings. Attorney-supervised law student externs and volunteers provide legal information to callers with disability-related issues or disputes so that they may explore all options up to and including litigation. CAP refers qualified cases to Disability Litigation. CAP publishes Know Your Rights Materials to answer questions on housing, transportation, barrier removal, voting rights, service animals and special education. To complete an intake, call (213) 736-1334 or (866) 999-3752 or click here for an online form. Intake forms are confidential and reviewed by an attorney within 2-3 weeks when the case is either accepted or further information is provided to close the case.
Education Advocacy litigates individual and impact cases involving special education and school-related disability discrimination. It ensures students with disabilities are fully included and provided a free and appropriate public education in a variety of traditional and non-traditional settings, including juvenile halls, camps and jails. Education Advocacy focuses on underrepresented minority and low-income students because these children often fall victim to harsh discipline policies and low expectations, which frequently results in them leaving school. Education Advocacy represents clients at administrative hearings as well as in federal and state court. It also educates the community on special education issues, which has led to the creation of Education Academies and the Education Advocacy Manual (a step-by-step guide on basic special education procedures).
Inland Empire is an in-house, legal clinic that works with law students at California’s University of La Verne, College of Law. It provides direct legal services in disability litigation and education advocacy to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Inland Empire facilitates interagency cooperation and community outreach on programs, services and support to children and adults on issues like failure to identify and/or assess children with disabilities, inadequate Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and/or failure to implement them. Inland Empire also litigates both class action and non-action cases involving access to higher education, courts, educational and mental health services in juvenile hall, and access to playgrounds by children with disabilities. For more information or to complete an intake, please call (909) 460-2051.
DRLC recruits, trains and supports lawyers willing to volunteer their time to help people with disabilities. Those affiliated with large law firms that have resources to support complex cases can co-counsel on impact litigation or draft amicus briefs. Individual volunteer lawyers can help with smaller, less complex issues that involve discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act or special education advocacy under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Pro Bono attorneys can also coordinate and present continuing legal education programs like Elimination of Bias in the Legal Profession or Special Education Law and Advocacy to lawyers interested in disability rights. (Disability Rights Legal Center is an authorized provider of continuing legal education by the California Bar.) To volunteer, please email Heather Benton.
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